Police crack fake-identity scam

Police are calling on members of the public to conduct business transactions using national ID cards rather than drivers permits after they made a major breakthrough in a fake identity scam.

The call follows the arrests of an imposter who impersonated a Barrackpore housewife and rented cars which were then sold to unsuspecting victims in South Trinidad.

The suspect was nabbed on Wednesday night during a sting operation at Grand Bazaar. Police officers led by PC Ali seized the imposter's fake credentials even as she insisted that she was innocent. It is believed that the woman has been impersonating housewife Sheba Baksh-Soondar over the last month, conducting more than five transactions for illicit financial gain.

During an exclusive interview with Guardian Media, housewife Sheba Baksh-Soondar said the arrest of the imposter had finally brought some measure of relief to her and her family.

Baksh-Soondar said she never dreamed that she would be a victim of identity theft.

Recalling her trauma, Baksh-Soondar said she was at home with her four children on August 2 when a friend called her to say her name was being called on Ian Alleyne's Crime Watch programme. 

Baksh-Soondar said she watched in horror as Alleyne showed a driver's permit with someone else's photograph. The permit bore her name, address, date of issue, expiration date and date of birth.

Baksh-Soondar contacted Alleyne and later appeared on his show showing her authentic documents.

"He told me that a vehicle was rented under my name and the vehicle was subsequently sold to another person. He took my drivers permit and my photograph and advised me to make reports," Baksh-Soondar added. 

She later went to the San Fernando Police Station, the Fraud Squad and the Licensing Office. However, Baksh-Soondar said the Licensing Office officials advised her to write to the Commissioner of Transport as they had no avenues available to lodge reports.

"I then circulated on Facebook my DP and the impersonator's fake permit which was shared over 600 times," she added.

On August 17, Baksh-Soondar said she received a visit from a team from Car Search who came to reclaim a vehicle which they said they sold. Again Baksh-Soondar provided a copy of her reports and advised the Car Search team that she was the victim of identity theft.

"They left when they realized I was not the person they were looking for," she recalled.

A few days later Baksh-Soondar said she got a call from PC Ali who requested copies of her national ID card, drivers permit and other documents.

"He said he was doing an enquiry with a vehicle under the same name and that it was reported that I rented a vehicle and then sold it someone else. There were at least five incidents of the same nature. I told the police I had no problem cooperating and I went to the station and submitted the documents," she said.

Most of the vehicles were rented in North Trinidad and sold in the South.

A senior police officer said yesterday that the matter is under investigation and enquiries were at a sensitive stage.

Baksh-Soondar said even though the officers have arrested the suspect she was still in fear of her life.

"The people whom she scammed may come looking for me and I am very worried about this," she added.

Efforts to contact Transport Commissioner Basdeo Gosine and Works Minister Rohan Sinanan for comment proved futile.

- by Rhondor Dowlat-Rostant

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